Winona State helps the island of St. Croix

Winona State helps the island of St. Croix

Lauren Saner, Copy Editor

Wednesday, Oct. 18, Fighting for Our Rights & Gender Equality (FORGE) gathered to prepare for their fundraiser to raise money for St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They spent their time chatting and making buttons to sell this week.

After hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit those in southern states and several U.S. territories, the group wanted to help. They were encouraged by their advisor, Tamara Berg, a women’s sexuality and gender studies (WGSS) professor and director, to raise money to help St. Croix.

Berg has been taking a travel study of Winona State University students every year since 2004 to make a difference on the island.

These students spend two and a half weeks working in one of four places; the Women’s Coalition to work with women and families who need help, Head Start where students work with young children, The Village where students work with adults who have addictions and the Nature Conservancy, to help preserve and protect the island and take care of its natural resources.

Berg has taken the initiative to raise funds for her friends in St. Croix and has been sending Amazon packages by working with shippers and those on the island to transport needed supplies. Berg encourages students to share with their families and social circles about St. Croix, USVI, Hurricane Relief Fund through Facebook to raise money to purchase supplies that those on the island need. This is a program that Berg created.

“The first Amazon pantry box got there last week [Oct. 9-13] and was distributed by Olasee Davis and he is going to meet the boxes that are going to arrive next week [Oct. 23-27] and get them to the Women’s Shelter and the Women’s Shelter staff is going to help distribute the supplies that were sent,” Berg said. “We focused on supplies on their wish lists they had published; lots of toiletries, baby supplies, flashlights [and] batteries, [which] are what they are most in need of right now.”

FORGE has connections to St. Croix as well. Two of their members, Vice President Jennifer Manglos, a senior communication studies major and member Natalie Tank, a senior political science major, have both accompanied Berg on her yearly travel studies to St. Croix. Tank went the summer of 2016, and Manglos went this past summer.

Manglos shared why it is important to help those on the island and her connection to St. Croix.

“It’s really important [to help them] because lots of students in the WGSS program have connections to St. Croix and the devastation there,” Manglos said. “We have huge love for the island, which is why we are so compelled to help provide the relief that we can.”

Berg encourages students to be a part of other ways that students can help provide relief and support St. Croix and those on the island. Olassee Davis, a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Croix, a leader for the St. Croix travel study and a good friend of Berg, will be on campus Nov. 6 and 7 to talk about the effects of Hurricane Maria on St. Croix.

The travel study to the island that goes every May is planned for next summer, with the plan to help with hurricane relief. Berg has also planned a spring break trip to St. Croix to do hurricane relief on the island. It will be from March 2-12, where students, faculty and community members are encouraged to be a part of this trip. It will include eight-hour work days and working with Richard Gideon from the Nature Conservancy to help rebuild the island.

FORGE will be tabling from Wednesday, Oct. 25 to Friday, Oct. 27 to raise money for St. Croix. They will be selling feminism buttons that they made, as well as coffee and Bloedow’s doughnuts. Berg encourages all students to be a part of this fundraiser.

“They can donate their change and I know students don’t have a lot of money, but we’re very lucky to be in a community right now that is safe from natural disaster,” Berg said. “I think there is always the opportunity to give, even just a little bit.”